ROCKINGHAM — After a long morning of participating and competing in various football drills, campers could not wait to get their shirts, pictures, footballs — and whatever else they could find — autographed by Richmond County native and current New Orleans Saints linebacker Dannell Ellerbe.
You could see the joy on the faces of every camper as they turned away from the table, holding up their newly signed memorabilia.
“We don’t see too many pro athletes come back down here. I know I didn’t see it when I was coming up,” Ellerbe explained. “It’s just a thing of showing that you can be successful.”
The practice football field at Richmond Senior High School was flooded with children, parents, helpers and a few NFL players this past Saturday, as Ellerbe hosted his fifth annual football camp — which saw 207 kids pre-register.
“I think the biggest year was the year I won the Super Bowl. We had a lot of kids that year, but we always have good numbers,” he added.
Among those helping Ellerbe run the camp were his wife, Shervella, teammate Stephone Anthony, New York Giants running back Bobby Rainey, current NFL cornerback Cary Williams and former NFL linebacker Lee Robinson.
Rainey and Williams were also members of the Baltimore Ravens team with Ellerbe that won Super Bowl XLVII in 2013.
“The most fun part is seeing the kids come out here and have fun,” Ellerbe said. “Just see them go hard and give it their all. About a little bit over halfway through, they’re dead tired. So, they’re fighting through, trying to focus. That’s the fun part about it.”
Ellerbe set up some of his familiar drills this year (route running, passing and catching, ball carrying), but decided to switch things up and add a new, more physical drill this time around — the tackling drill.
Campers watched as they were taught the correct way to tackle, and then practiced hitting the bags themselves.
“This was the first year I did tackling drills with the bags, so that was kind of fun — watching the little kids tackle,” Ellerbe said with a smile.
Whether they were yelling directions through the loudspeakers, chasing the smaller kids away from the water tanks or attempting to strip the ball from the campers as they made their way through the ball carrying drill, everyone who helped out during Saturday’s event seemed to enjoy every minute of it.
“(I want to) give hope to the kids, like ‘I can do that because he was from here’ or ‘I can do what he did’ or ‘I want to be better than him’ type deal,” Ellerbe said. “That’s all I want to instill in them. Instill in them hope and help build a foundation for them to be successful.”
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. at 910-817-2673 and follow the sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.